State Workers, REAL ID Act and Budget Negotiations

***Guest Column***

This week the General Assembly discussed many items, some of those were decriminalization of marijuana, new licensing for gun dealers, reducing sales taxes on feminine hygiene products and pay raises the state can’t afford. The problem is that we don’t have a budget, but instead of having the tough conversation about solutions, we talked about pay raises for some segments of the State’s workers. Now I certainly appreciate the hard work our state workers provide and I support them. However, the pay raise legislation that passed this week will cost an additional 3 billion dollars we simply don’t have. It leaves me asking myself, where will this $3 billion come from? We are not the Federal Government. We cannot print our own currency. It’s not growing on trees… It’s going to come out of your pocket.


The state can manage its money better and our Governor is doing the best he can with the challenges we are faced with. If the State of Illinois was an individual person, imagine Illinois as someone who makes more than average, but lives way beyond his or her means. Do you know anyone like that? Well, Illinois has a large house that is upside down on its mortgage. This week, the owner decided that he’s building an addition without any money to pay for it.

It’s this kind of decision-making that has dragged this state down for the past 25 years. People elected a new Governor to shake things up and show us a different way of doing things. Instead, career politicians refuse to accept ideas on how to correct inefficiencies and root out waste. Instead, they repeatedly reach back into the taxpayer’s pockets for more of their hard earned money.

On another note, I wanted to let you know that your driver’s license is changing. Secretary of State Jesse White announced that all new drivers’ licenses will include several new security features such as a new photo structure and a design that includes patterns and lines in the image. These changes are an effort to comply with the Federal REAL ID Act of 2005 and will further protect your information from potential criminal activity.

I would also like to congratulate Lieutenant Colonel James Winters and Major Robert Atherton on their upcoming retirements from the Illinois State Police. Thank you for your great service and commitment to the citizens of Illinois. While we are talking about the State Police, there have been reports that scammers are impersonating police. In some cases, the misleading phone calls ask for monetary donations, warn the listener there is a warrant for their arrest, or both. The State Police, which issued a public warning of the scam phone calls on Wednesday, May 11, which states that the police force will never use telephone calls to solicit money for any reason. They advise anyone who has received one of these calls to contact the consumer fraud hotline of the Office of the Illinois Attorney General.

Representative Demmer and I hosted a Tele Townhall for our districts last week. Thank you to everyone who participated. We had a very nice, thoughtful conversation with 30,000 people in our districts. People asked great questions and we had a good time talking with you. If you did not get a chance to speak with us, you can always reach out to my office by calling the telephone number listed at the end of this column.

Looking ahead to the final days of the Spring Session, I hope the “Budgeteer Group” can put together a serious proposal for a budget. Failed leadership and bad decisions has driven out hundreds of thousands of jobs over the past decades. Those failures have created an insurmountable mountain of debt that crushes our state’s finances. We can do better. The House Republicans have proposed solution after solution, but the other side refuses to let any of them be heard on the House Floor. I hope we see some budget progress next week. We can’t afford to let the other side of the aisle pull Illinois further into this debt hole. We stand here, willing to compromise. My colleagues understand that there has to be give and take. However, leadership from the other side refuses to cooperate, they would rather hold the most vulnerable people in this state hostage while they refuse to negotiate a budget.

This week’s column reminds me of a quote from Sinclair Lewis who said “It isn’t what you earn but how you spend it that fixes your class.” I have said repeatedly Illinois needs to grow its tax base, not its tax rate and I hope we take some action in the last 9 days of session to do just that.

As always, you can reach me or Sally at 815/232-0774 or e-mail us at repstewart@gmail.com. You can also visit my website at www.repbrianstewart.com or on Facebook.